No skiers reported missing in Mammoth avalanche | SierraSun.com

No skiers reported missing in Mammoth avalanche

The Associated Press

Photo by Jonnel Janewicz/Associated PressHundreds of searchers, using poles to probe the snow every six inches, work across the avalanche area at Mammoth Mountain on Monday.

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. (AP) ” No one was reported missing and only a few people had minor injuries after an avalanche rumbled through a Mammoth Mountain ski run, authorities said.

The ski resort reopened Tuesday after searchers gave the all-clear at the site of an avalanche that partially buried several people a day earlier.

Search crews spent hours Monday looking for people possibly buried under the snow, using poles to probe every six inches, said Joani Lynch, spokeswoman for the Mammoth Mountain ski area.

“We fielded a number of calls from concerned individuals looking for people and it turns out that the individuals who were not accounted for were helping with the search,” Lynch said.

The avalanche hit shortly after 2 p.m., authorities said.

Three or four minor injuries were initially reported by fire dispatch, but no one was taken to the local hospital, said fire chief Brent Harper. Lynch said the ski area had no reports of injuries related to the incident.

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The slide, while fairly wide, occurred only in the area of a run called Climax, which is near the top of the 11,053-foot mountain that has had record snowfall this season, Lynch said.

The mountain’s ski patrol had triggered controlled slides earlier, and had blasted the Climax area, too, Lynch said. But she did not know if that work had actually caused any snow to slide in Climax area.

Skier Katie Bloom, 26, said she saw the aftermath of the avalanche as she rode a gondola up the mountain.

“It was huge,” said Bloom, a teacher. “You could see some people in snow up to their knees. I saw some patrollers digging. I couldn’t tell if they were using a shovel or their hands. Everyone was screaming, ‘Oh, no, not again.'”

The avalanche came on the heels of an April 6 tragedy when three members of Mammoth’s ski patrol were asphyxiated by gas from a volcanic vent on the mountain. One of the three was the resort’s avalanche expert.

The Mammoth Web site reported the resort closed operations for the day at 2:30 p.m. It also said 11 inches of snow had fallen in the 24 hours preceding 6 a.m. and the base depth was 18 feet to 20 feet.

The resort has had more than 52 feet of total snowfall since October.

Mammoth, 195 miles east of San Francisco, is very popular with skiers and snowboarders from Southern California. It has 3,500 skiable acres, 150 trails and 28 lifts.

The Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center had warned that there was considerable danger of both natural and manmade avalanches in the Mammoth Basin.

“Natural avalanches are possible and you will probably trigger a slab avalanche if you get into steep northwest to southeast facing terrain especially above treeline,” the warning posted Monday said.

A slab avalanche sets loose an entire slope.

The April 6 deaths occurred as a ski patrol team was raising a fence around a well-known hazard, a vent that spews volcanic gases. Thick snow collapsed and two members of the patrol fell in. A third member, Charles Walter Rosenthal, was overcome and died after entering the hole in a rescue attempt.